OSIRIS-REx Reveals a 'Treasure Trove'

NASA finally unlocks long-sought asteroid sample, with some decent-sized rocks
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 24, 2024 12:51 PM CST
NASA Finally Unlocks Its Asteroid Sample
In this photo, Mari Montoya, left, and Curtis Calva use tools to collect asteroid particles from the base of a canister on Sept. 27 at Johnson Space Center in Houston.   (NASA via AP, File)

After months of painstaking effort, the last two screws have finally been removed from the end of OSIRIS-REx's articulated arm, which grabbed a sample of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu as part of a $1 billion NASA mission, allowing scientists to look inside. They found a "treasure trove of asteroid material," including rocks nearly half an inch in diameter, adding to the 2.48 ounces of material that had already been collected from the hardware prior to the lid being removed, as Space.com reports. NASA said the newly accessed sample has yet to be weighed, though the Guardian indicates NASA now has 9 ounces of material to work with. The mission goal, which was a minimum of 2.12 ounces, was met before the canister was opened.

Unable to remove the stubborn screws with existing tools, NASA technicians had to develop custom instruments "made from a specific grade of surgical, nonmagnetic stainless steel" that could be used inside a glove box that helps protect the sample from contamination, per the Guardian. "We are overjoyed with the success," said OSIRIS-REx curator Dr. Nicole Lunning. The curation team is still working to transfer the sample into trays, which "will be photographed before the sample is weighed, packaged, and stored," NASA said Friday. A catalog of Bennu rocks will be released later this year, allowing scientists to "submit requests for research or display." (More asteroid stories.)

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